The crowds asked John the baptiser, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax-collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed for you.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’ (Luke 3:10-14)
I did not feel that business ambitions were compatible with a serious life of faith … [yet] I remember walking down the narrow path at the side of the church on the way to the worship service and saying to one of the other young men with me, ‘Somehow I feel the Lord wants me to expand the business and become a businessman.’ I was surprised by this because I had seen quite a number of people become sidetracked from their faith by worldly ambition, making their work or business into a god and I knew with certainty that this was not what I wanted with my life.
I wanted to mean business with the Lord, an apt phrase for a businessman and one which has been meaningful to me all of my adult life. For me, it means to be utterly seriously about my relationship with the Lord and to follow his promptings in my life as sincerely and transparently as I know how to, because of the love I have for him. I wanted nothing to distract me from that. I wanted to put my energy into evangelism and other aspects of the Lord’s work. As a consequence of this very clear inner stance, I did not plan to expand the business.
However, in spite of my initial resistance, the impression that the Lord had spoken to me remained very strong … I decided to put into motion certain things that would help the business expand, even though I did not know the reason for it or where it would lead.
As I began to obey this call, I found that I knew instinctively how to run a business and that the basic business principles were really just common sense. During my teen years, when I was apprenticed to my father in the butchering business, I was painfully shy, stammered badly, was losing my hair and had little self-confidence—not a promising set of characteristics for the making of a successful businessman. But in spite of this I seemed to have a gift for business, and even in those early days, I had an inner awareness that if only I had the opportunity, I would be a good businessman …
So I went ahead a step at a time, and I gradually began to realise that it is possible to run a business efficiently and Christianly at the same time. I could be a good businessman as well as a man of deep faith. This was a revelation to me. Moreover, I have found that in many ways, this is a really helpful combination. I was naturally out there in the world, mixing with all sorts of people who had no association with the church. Through my business activities, I learned to relate to people of all walks of life whom I would not have met if I had stayed only within the faith community. This has enriched my life and experience immensely and made me much more confident about moving easily in secular society and speaking naturally of my faith in this context, whenever it is relevant.